City Walk - Bhairo Marg, Central Delhi

City Walk – Bhairo Marg, Central Delhi

City Walk - Bhairo Marg, Central Delhi

City Walk - Bhairo Marg, Central Delhi

Road with a view.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

This building is very new. That building is very old.

Like a hoard heaped by the road, Delhi’s severely disparate versions lie on the opposing sides of a same avenue. Bhairo Marg is flanked by the gigantic complex of Bharat Mandapam, as well as by the similarly gigantic Purana Qila. The former opened in 2023. The latter was completed in 1538.

The avenue’s long wide sidewalk runs along its northern perimeter, skirting past Bharat Mandapam. A leisurely stroll shows panoramas of both the Mandapam and the Qila, which is across the road. This evening, the walker-friendly pathway is deserted, enabling the citizen-pedestrian to patiently appraise the extraordinary contrast between the two far-apart eras of city architecture.

A venue for exhibitions, conventions, fairs and conferences, Bharat Mandapam stands on the site of the so-called Hall of Nations— a warren of reinforced concrete structures built in the early 1970s to serve the same purpose of staging exhibitions. Last year, the shining new landmark hosted the G7 summit. At the time, world newsmakers such as Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macaron gathered within the complex, briefly turning it into a meeting adda for some of the world’s most powerful individuals. (Although the venue’s first major event was the New Delhi World Book Fair 2023, with Nobel laureate Annie Ernaux rendering a speech in the huge convention center.)

All that newsy bustle seems remote now. Nobody is here, except for two people inexplicably sitting outside the Mandapam’s colossal Entry Gate.

Unlike Bharat Mandapam, Purana Qila claims only a corner of the Bhairo Marg. But the presence is commanding. The time-damaged bastion is exuding awe and mystery. The perfectly preserved stone chattris peering from behind the bastion appear to be the decorative segments of Qila-i-Kuhna, the mosque within the old fort.

Meanwhile on the busy road, a cab slows down, the driver leans out of the window, quickly flashing his mobile phone. He is probably snapping a photo of the Purana Qila, or perhaps of the water fountain that was installed on the road divider during the countdown to the G7 Summit.

In a city built, destroyed, rebuilt, re-destroyed, and rebuilt many times over, the two aspects of Bhairo Marg forcefully emphasise Delhi’s unique entwining of its changing present with its unchanging past.